Ghost Train, the latest short from writer/director Lee Cronin, which screened this year at the Galway Film Fleadh is having its international premiere at the Clermont-Ferrard International Film Festival next year( January 31st- February 8th). Along with a portfolio of advertising works, Cronin has also directed two other shorts Billy and Chuck and Through the Night. Ghost Train is by far his most accomplished and ambitious work and really hits the nail on the head in horror terms.
Two brothers Michael (Owen McDonnell) and Peter (Steve Wall) take a trip to an abandoned fairground, a place they used to visit as young boys. They’ve been making this visit every year for thirty years ever since their friend Sam went missing under supernatural circumstances but this time is different. Each brother, carrying the burden of blame over what happened to their friend are dealing with it in different ways but this will be Michaels last pilgrimage and he has something to get off his chest.
I thought Ghost Train was really impressive. It succeeds in being really creepy without any clichéd frights and over the top gore. Cronin and his team manage to capture the eeriness of the dilapidated fairground yard with real skill and subtly. A dusty mechanical skeleton resides on the roof of the ghost train and an out of action Ferris wheel looms in the background. A simple sound track accompanied by some well-placed creaks and the spine-chilling way in which the skeleton taps its mechanical fingers perfectly creates an unnerving atmosphere. The film was co-produced between Irish and Finland, the Scandinavian input is evident.
The performances are all solid and convincing and even in such a short time frame, we are given an interesting insight into Michael and Peters ‘chalk and cheese’ characters as they are now and how they were as young boys. With only 16mins to play around with, the swapping between timelines by way of flashback is done really well. The present day has an icy blue palette contrasted with the sunny hue of thirty years before when the boys were carefree.
There are some nice echoes of Stephen Kings work in Ghost Train. The scenes with the young boys (Matthew Dillon, Sean Gormley and Matthew Broe) are reminiscent of Stand by Me and a ghostly clown-faced skeleton which lies on the ground reminded me of “It”. There are also similarities in terms of the theme of the older man returning in reality and via flashback to painful events in his past, Mystic River, Sneakers, etc. Spoiler alert: Near the climax of the film a creature emerges from the Ghost Train that would give Chris Cunningham’s demon in Aphex Twins’ ‘Come to Daddy’ video a run for its money!
And speaking of money the use in the film of Irish coins as opposed to euro cents is a really nice touch!
A thoroughly engaging horror and if I had to make any criticism it would be that the plot isn’t hugely original and slightly predictable but this is more than made up for by the excellent direction, design and production values and the performances by all of the cast.
Best of luck in France Lee!